Rocky Votolato is a soft-spoken, hard-working 28-year-old father of two. Although now based in Seattle, he spent his childhood in a small town called Frost (population 647), 100 miles south of Dallas. Growing up with a biker outlaw as a father and living on a ranch with 15 horses, Rocky had an unconventional upbringing, soundtracked by the songs of Willie Nelson, Steve Earle, and Johnny Cash. Rocky now says of his childhood, “My dad was in a motorcycle gang based out of Dallas, TX called the Scorpions. They were rivals with the Banditos and Hell’s Angles. Crazy to think about it now… I remember the family trip to the State Fair and my dad being handcuffed and taken away because of the pistol he always carried in his belt… It took me a long time to realize that kind of shit wasn’t normal. The only thing I really miss about Texas is the freedom I had there living on 50 acres of horse pasture.”
After his mother moved the family to Seattle, Rocky spent his high school years discovering the underground punk/indie scene. Inspired by bands like Fugazi, he and his brother Cody (now blowing minds as a founding member of acclaimed hardcore/art combo The Blood Brothers) formed a punk rock band called Waxwing, which soon gained a devoted fan-base. Still wanting to make music that echoed the life he’d left behind in Texas, Rocky recorded three increasingly accomplished solo albums, and has now produced an album that draws much of its inspiration from Rocky’s rural upbringing but transcends his personal history. Makers is a stunning collection of songs that seem to have been scratched into a boxcar wall by a worn-out and lonesome ghost. The album’s title, whether it references a vague existential preoccupation or perhaps a certain brand of American whiskey, captures the mood of its 12 songs perfectly — listening to Rocky’s words, you don’t feel like a voyeur, but rather an ally, sharing secrets by the dying fire.